Creative Activities Can Boost Well-Being

Everyday creative activity may lead to an “upward spiral” of increased well-being and creativity in young adults, according to new research.

For the study, researchers from the Department of Psychology at New Zealand’s University of Otago asked 658 university students to keep a daily diary of their experiences and emotional states over 13 days.

After analyzing the diaries, the researchers, led by Dr. Tamlin Conner, found a pattern of the participants feeling more enthusiasm and higher “flourishing” than usual following days when they were more creative.

Flourishing is a psychological concept that can be described as increasing positive growth in oneself, the researchers explained.

While the study did not specifically ask the students to record the nature of their creative activity, the researchers had collected such information informally in an earlier study.

The most common examples were songwriting; creative writing (poetry, short fiction); knitting and crochet; making new recipes; painting, drawing, and sketching; graphic and digital design; and performing music.

Conner noted that she and her team wanted to find out if engaging in everyday creative acts makes people feel better emotionally.

“There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning,” she said. “However, most of this work focuses on how emotions benefit or hamper creativity, not whether creativity benefits or hampers emotional well-being.”

The researchers found that “positive affect” (PA) — which encompasses feelings such as pleasurable engagement, happiness, joy, excitement, and enthusiasm — on a particular day did not predict next-day creative activity.

“Our earlier research found that PA appears to increase creativity during the same day, but our latest findings show that there is no cross-day effect,” she said. “Rather, it is creative activity on the previous day that predicts well-being the next.”

Even when controlling for next-day creative activity, the previous day’s creativity significantly predicted energized PA and flourishing, she noted.

“This finding suggests a particular kind of upward spiral for well-being and creativity — engaging in creative behavior leads to increases in wellbeing the next day, and this increased well-being is likely to facilitate creative activity on the same day,” the researchers said in the study, which was published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

“Overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning.”

Source: University of Otago